By Ellie Kuhen
The topic of environmental, social, and corporate governance communications, or ESG, continues to be a huge priority for companies. The overall goal of incorporating ESG into business is to ensure companies consider their overarching impact on society and the world, not just their bottom line.
ESG should not be a one-time recognize, but rather a constant effort to demonstrate a company’s commitment to its stakeholders and acknowledge its presence to the rest of society.
And it makes a difference.
Companies that pay attention to ESG practices tend to see positive results, including a more decisive competitive advantage, improved investor relations, greater financial performance, and increased customer loyalty. In fact, 30% of people say it’s more important for companies to focus on ESG than consumer needs.
ESG practices and communication are now expected from consumers. 94% of consumers support brands that care about ESG, yet 71% say it’s difficult to know if a brand cares about its ESG and sustainability goals.
Consumers are looking for ethical and sustainable brands, and most look for proof that a company is walking the walk. Here are three best practices for your ESG communication strategy:
1. Establish clear ESG goals.
One of the first steps in your ESG communications is defining your company’s ESG goals. It is critical to voice the goals and provide specific information on the ‘why’ and ‘how’ behind them. Having clear intentions makes it easier to communicate the steps your company is taking and to measure success.
The Patagonia brand became an industry-leading example of clear ESG goals. Patagonia’s sustainability mission statement is to ‘Protect our home planet,’ and it is evident throughout its products and promotion. Another example of a clear ESG goal is Yeti, which seeks to reduce the usage of single-use plastic. Yeti and Patagonia’s specific ESG goals may differ but are clear and evident in their commitment to environmental sustainability.
2. Tell your brand’s ESG story.
The easiest way to ensure stakeholders understand your brand’s ESG practices is to explain it like a story. This approach allows you to take your audience through the history of ESG at your company, explain the importance of the efforts, and highlight the progress that has been made and will continue in the future. Use language that consumers and non-industry experts understand will showcase the importance of the ESG goals to the business and its long-term plans.
3. Provide timely and ongoing updates.
ESG is all about defining a company beyond its services. Telling this story should be a 365-day-a-year process. Ongoing communications through email newsletters, social media, website embeds and posts, internal emails, and other mediums effectively communicate to audiences how important ESG is to the company. Providing timely updates on progress towards goals and success stories showcases commitment to the practices and helps to avoid ‘greenwashing’ accusations, defined as using deceptive language and marketing strategies to inaccurately represent a company’s environmental impact.
Showcasing ESG practices and intertwining them into regular communications helps to increase your company’s creditability and reputation while building long-term value by building solid relationships with stakeholders. ESG will continue to play an important role in businesses, and following these best practices on top of actively working toward ESG goals will set your company up for success.